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November 16, 2014 1:18 pm

Scotland the Brave

avatar by Jeremy Rosen

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Scotland. Photo: Macieklew via Wikimedia Commons.

I have always loved Scotland.

When I was 2 years old, my father became the Communal Rabbi of Glasgow. The much-missed author Chaim Bermant records that when Kopul Rosen had finished his induction address, an elder of the community was seen to walk away shaking his head. “What’s the matter?” he was asked. “Don’t you think he’s good?”

“Good? He’s marvelous.”

“Then why are you shaking your head?”

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“Because a man like that will never stay here for long.”

He was right, though for possibly the wrong reasons. The Rosen family’s time in Glasgow was brief, just two years, because my father was called to London to become the Chief Rabbi of the Federation of Synagogues. All I recall from that period was having my finger nibbled by a rabbit at Queens Park Zoo.

In 1968 I returned to Scotland as the rabbi of Giffnock, the largest Scottish Orthodox community, and spent some of the happiest years of my life. I loved the community. It was so warm, so Scottish. But they talked about leaving the country every time they went down to London. To me, Scotland and the work in the community was heaven. But I didn’t last long either. Not because I didn’t love it, but because I was called south to take over my late father’s school in England.

I was educated in England, and we were taught about the Great British Empire and Scotland’s essential part of it. Throughout the empire the Scots marched in their kilts and trews and blew their bagpipes. They fought bravely and provided skills, managerial and academic expertise. We English were proud of the Scots. But the feeling was not necessarily mutual.

One often sensed an abiding resentment of England that came from earlier battles and defeats. The competition between the two dominant soccer clubs of Glasgow in those days, Celtic and Rangers, often led to violent encounters and reflected the tensions between Catholics and the Protestants, the loyalists and the antiroyalists. The annual international between Scotland and “the auld enemie” England was often marred by violence.

Scotland had beauty, vibrant culture, and great universities, but also brutal poverty and drunkenness. The Church of Scotland was independent of the Church of England. Scotland had its own legal and educational systems. Political life in Scotland was for the past 150 years dominated by the unions, with their passionate Marxist orators and bullies. The leaders of the working masses along the Clyde, in heavy industries and shipbuilding, were among the founders of the Labour Party.

Over time the Conservative party lost any influence it once had north of the Border. Virtually all the Westminster members of Parliament from Scotland are socialists and often extreme ones as well. The Scots liked to express their deep resentment that England was flourishing as Scotland declined. This resentment remained even after the North Sea oil boom brought wealth to Aberdeen and the North East. Then the Scottish National Party appeared and added a petty and anti-English form of nationalism to the mix. But it expanded and offered a serious alternative to the big parties from the south.

Massive financial support of the Scottish social system by English taxpayers was a sweetener, but not enough. So more money was poured out to build a Scottish Parliament and carry out devolution. In its turn this caused resentment in England because Members of Parliament from Scotland could vote in London on matters of English concern, but English MPs couldn’t have a say in Scotland’s Parliament.

In British politics I am not a natural Conservative, but whereas once I was a strong Labour supporter, the way it has become increasingly unsympathetic (at best) towards Israel has inclined me against them. Perversely this was why I might have supported the idea of Scottish independence in theory! Because if the socialist politicians could be hived off the British body politic that way, their malign hard-left influence would be removed from a Westminster already coming more and more under antagonistic sway.

On the other hand, an independent Scotland without the moderation of the Conservatives would have been yet another violently anti-Israel vote in the UN and the EU. So on balance I am glad it went the way it did.

Interestingly, in the vote for Scottish independence Glasgow and Dundee areas were the ones with by far the largest vote in favor of breaking the union. They are also the most vociferously anti-Israel cities. And the younger generation voted overwhelmingly to split. As everywhere in the west nowadays, the young, educated activists see anti-Israelism as their default cause. Radicalism lashes out in predictable directions.

Now, with the breakup averted, one comfort is that the UK will remain ambivalent about Israel because the Conservatives do contain a pro-Israel element, regardless of the pressure from the Foreign Office. England now may well have its own parliament that excludes the Scottish MPs, who can now do as they please within their own borders. And England will continue to foot much of its bills. That was the carrot offered to try to win votes. That’s tradition for you and the price of preserving the Union Jack and Balmoral as the Queen’s summer retreat!

The truth is I have doubts about more little ethnicities asking for independence. All this nationalism really goes back to the post-WWI misguided attempt to stop more conflict. The old empires fractured, and each part became more self-preoccupied and xenophobic. The EU has tried to rectify it, but the result has been a capitulation of its dominant ethnicities to external ones. All countries and most politicians are corrupt to varying degrees and waste money. Lots of little ones only end up increasing the pig trough and wasting even more.

The only good I could see in this whole episode was that it makes it harder to argue that if every little European ethnicity can have their state, then why should not Israel? But frankly, in the end, national identities tend to be bad things and cause more enmity rather than less. And anti-Semitism knows no logic. World peace is still a long way off, but Scotland the brave remains part of Great Britain and the Queen can now relax. At least she still has her “Sceptered Isle.”

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  • Kathleen

    Thank you for this article. I really appreciate your thoughtfulness & fairmindedness.
    Most of one side of my family originally emigrated from Scotland & I’ve been there twice to visit.
    I like the idea of Scottish independence in theory, too, but think the opportunity may have come a couple hundred years too late.

  • Rev Wilkinson,
    I’d be happy to answer your question.

    First off, if you want to discuss a Two State Solution, Israel’s the wrong address. After all, Israel has already done what no Arab country would do, give the Arabs whom call them selves Palestinians some land to stake out their own destiny.The results are obvious.

    So I suggest you talk to Fatah/Hamas instead,(they’re on the same team,remember?) get them to formally announce their recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, have Hamas and Fatah both renounce the parts of their charters that call for the annihilation of Jews and demilitarize. Then come talk to Israel.

    Second, when you criticize Israel, stop holding Israel to standards you don’t expect any other nation to adhere to. As far as I’m concerned, that’s de facto anti-Semitism. If the Brits said openly that they wanted to exterminate every Scot and started firing missiles and mortar shells at Scotland’s civilians, You’d do something about it…but I doubt you’d have every self righteous twit in the so-called ‘international community’ talking to you about ‘disproportionate response.’

    And third, before you criticize Israel, realize that the neighborhood they live in is different from yours. No one near Scotland has ever called openly for the Scots to be massacred and cheered every killing of women and children as a holy act. No one near Scotland has ever used the media, schools and religious edifices to teach their children and everyone else that killing Scots is a holy act, and that a three-month-old baby being murdered in is a heroic deed and something to celebrate. This goes on every single day in both Gaza and in the Arab occupied areas of Judea and Samaria.And until you’ve experienced what that feels like, then as far as I’m concerned any criticism you have of what Israel does to defend its people while taking extraordinary measures to preserve human life in the face of an enemy that doesn’t value human life and uses their people as human shields is fatuous and ignorant at best.

    Please, if you can, realize that signing a piece of paper with these people and giving them land amounts to a closer platform to fire at Israel’s civilians until that changes. Would you and the Scots do the same? of course not.

    Rob Miller

  • JOHN

    KARAISM FOR PEACE?

  • Elliot Miller

    It is interesting that the author discusses the anti_Israel sentiments of the Scots and the left wing English, but does not universally attribute those feelings to anti-Semitism.

    • Jeremy Rosen

      Oh yes, that too!!!!!

  • T.C.

    Hello Rabbi Rosen, I was attracted by “Scotland The Brave.” because my dad was also Scottish and his ancestors too. Grandad was an engineer who built battleships at the shipyards on the River Clyde. As a child I was introduced to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs where my Aunt lived and I have had a love affair with the highlands ever since and have introduced my grown children to the beauty and culture of Scotland. As I read your article the odd thought that struck me was that as a gentile child I was taught not to like Catholics and told not to marry a ‘left footer.’ (I shan’t use the word hate, that’s too strong.) Yet on the other hand I was taught respect for the Jews. Don’t we live in a strange and ignorant world? Thank God I have learnt respect for both. But my point is what we are taught as children is so so important. That Catholic thing stayed with me well into my teen years when I became a Christian by choice. My dad has passed away now and I never asked him why he taught me to respect the Jews so I will never know but I’m glad I do. ‘If we bless Israel we will be blessed’, and I am! It’s not likely that my dad knew that because he had no faith and certainly never read the Bible and his dad had a big hammer and sickle red flag in a trunk under his bed. God was never mentioned in my family so I went about finding Him myself and I’m glad I did. I’m not really reseponding to your article am I.? But you have brought back memories for me and the shared knowledge that we both love Scotland and God. Have you seen the Tea towel you can buy in the souvenir shops up there describing all the beauties and many blessings the Lord bestowed on Scotland and the angel asking God why He was being so generous to these Scots. Back came the reply. “Not really, wait until you see the neighbours I’m giving them.” Ha. Have a nice day.

    • Jeremy Rosen

      TC

      Thanks for your memories. Let me share one of mine. It was 1968 Celtic v Rangers and I really did sit between a Catholic Priest and Church of Scotland Minister.
      During the National Anthem the Celtic supporters booed. And during the Celtic anthem the Rangers sang F the Pope. And when Celtic scored I got a kiss and a hug from the Priest and when Rangers scored the compliment was repaid by the Minister.
      Fortunately it ended in a draw.

      There was a lot of hate and drunkenness then. But I miss Scotland, its people and its beauty to this very day!

  • Eric R.

    What is it about the Celts? Scotland and Ireland are both frothing anti-Israel, anti-Semitic entities.

    • Jeremy Rosen

      Both suffered from Imperial Powers and side with left wing rebels.

      • Eric R.

        Simplistic, but inaccurate argument. I can’t really speak of Scotland, but let’s take Ireland.

        Remember, this hatred of Israel and love of the Pali-Nazis shows that the Irish support the same villains as their British oppressors.

        That tells me that their hatred of Jews (who never did anything to them) is greater than their hatred of the British.

        And lest you forget, Mr. Rosen, Irish hatred of Israel goes back to the founding of the Jewish state. Ireland was the next to last EU country to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel, and was hostile to it long before 1967, when they could use the “occupation” as a pretext.

        You also no doubt remember that in the time of Northern Ireland’s “troubles”, the UDA would taunt Ulster Catholics (the IRA in particular) by waving Israeli (and not British) flags.

        The other problem with your simplistic argument is that in Ireland, there has not historically been a strong Socialist party, and at the same time, it is a country where the rightist parties are also strongly anti-Israel. Elsewhere in Europe, rightist parties tend to be somewhat less hostile than leftist parties.

        There is something broader, deeper and more disturbing at work. Frankly, Israel should have severed diplomatic relations with Ireland long ago – and thrown Irish journalists and NGO workers out of the country; the only reason they have not is the (greatly exaggerated) fear that such a move would have on Irish-American supporters of Israel.

        • Then how do you account for the election of a Jew as Mayor of Dublin?

          The present day animosity towards Jews and Israel is just the re-emergence of the old church inspired hatred towards the “Christ Killers”.. It never left the Irish sub-conscious as the go-to group to blame for anything negative that happened in the world!

          We had the good Father Coughlin spouting his vicious form of anti-Semitism back in the 30’s. “La plus ca’ change, la pus meme chose”

  • Bullfrog Europe

    Great reading, and very well summarised. Scotland is a stunningly beautiful country.

  • Mickey Oberman

    Elizabeth’s scepter may very soon be topped not by a cross but by a crescent.

    How many countries has she visited during her reign? It must be close to 90 now.
    But never little Israel.

    Is she still smarting from being driven out of Israel by a rag tag bunch of Jews?
    Or is it just her latent anti Semitism?
    Or could she possibly be embarrassed by the Brits stabbing the Jews in the back by giving away most of what, according to The League of Nations mandate, was to be a Jewish land not Jordanian?

    Mickey Oberman

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    It seems that the world must be dominated by one extreme political philosophy or the other. Before WW2 the domination came from the Right wing 0 Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Today before the outbreak of the third world war, it is dominated by the equally lunatic left wing, Before WW2 the leader of the oppposition was Chambererlain, an ineffective boob with a jelly spine and a mind set which caused the destruction of much of the world. Now pre WW3 we have a boob leading the parade of the willing fools. His name is Obama. And each had foreign ministers equally stupid namely Lord Halifax and John Kerry. History does repeat because people are ignorant of it,

  • Arrick Wilkinson

    I do take issue with some of the statements. No Scot likes to be classed as “a little ethnicity”. We are a proud nation, with much in our past, present, and I think, our future, of which we can be justly proud. I served on one of the Church of Scotland Councils, and one of my task was to engage in dialogue with our Jewish brothers and sisters. We have much to learn from each other, but I resented the fact that any criticism of the Israeli Government immediately branded me as “anti-Semitic” I believe I can criticise the Scottish Government, without being anti0scottish, ditto the British Government, the American Government, the French – the list is endless. Mainly, I believe that we can improve our world both by understanding each other, but also by engaging in robust dialogue about these items on which we disagree.
    Secondly, I do not think that Scotland recieves a big, fat subsidy from England. They have all of our oil revenues, and, unlike a country like Norway, have not set up an oil fund, but have simply taken it as income and spent it.
    Finally, and most puzzlingly to me, what exactly does the sentence about “if every little European ethnicity can have their state, then why should not Israel?” I thought Israel had a state; the fact that you don not accept the two state solution to the Arab problem, is something we could, I am sure, discuss at length. But I would ask, rather, if every little European ethnicity, and an ethnicity like the Jews, can have their own state, why not the Palestinians?

    Yours sincerely,

    Rev Arrick D Wilkinson

    • Yale

      Dear Rev Wilkinson,

      >> I believe I can criticise the Scottish Government, without being anti0scottish, ditto the British Government, the American Government, the French – the list is endless.

      The reason for this is that one never hears criticisms that have the implication that the country should be destroyed and its people butchered. Most of what is coming out of Europe, Scotland included, shows total ignorance of the real objective of the Palestinians, namely to destroy Israel and effect a second Holocaust.

      The reality is that the Palestinians have been offered a state perhaps a dozen times since the Peel Commission in 1937 and each time they have turned that down because it was conditional on the reciprocal establishment of a state for the Jews.

      I would expect a British subject to be aware of this track record, but evidently you aren’t. It is precisely because of what the Palestinians really want, not a state of their own, that the claim at the end of your message reveals much ignorance.

    • Jeremy Rosen

      I certainly do not think any criticism of Israel is anti Semitic. After all Israelis criticize their government far more bitterly than most outside.

      Neither do I deny the right of Palestinians to have a state of their own.

      I object to one sided criticism of Israel. On picking it out above all others for de-ligitimization, odium and boycott. On assuming that peace depends entirely on Israel. On refusing to accept Palestinian and Arab responsibility. It takes two to tango.

    • Rev Wilkinson,
      I’d be happy to answer your question.

      First off, if you want to discuss a Two State Solution, Israel’s the wrong address. After all, Israel has already done what no Arab country would do, give the Arabs whom call them selves Palestinians some land to stake out their own destiny.The results are obvious.

      So I suggest you talk to Fatah/Hamas instead,(they’re on the same team,remember?) get them to formally announce their recognition of Israel as a Jewish State, have Hamas and Fatah both renounce the parts of their charters that call for the annihilation of Jews and demilitarize. Then come talk to Israel.

      Second, when you criticize Israel, stop holding Israel to standards you don’t expect any other nation to adhere to. As far as I’m concerned, that’s de facto anti-Semitism. If the Brits said openly that they wanted to exterminate every Scot and started firing missiles and mortar shells at Scotland’s civilians, You’d do something about it…but I doubt you’d have every self righteous twit in the so-called ‘international community’ talking to you about ‘disproportionate response.’

      And third, before you criticize Israel, realize that the neighborhood they live in is different from yours. No one near Scotland has ever called openly for the Scots to be massacred and cheered every killing of women and children as a holy act. No one near Scotland has ever used the media, schools and religious edifices to teach their children and everyone else that killing Scots is a holy act, and that a three-month-old baby being murdered in is a heroic deed and something to celebrate. This goes on every single day in both Gaza and in the Arab occupied areas of Judea and Samaria.And until you’ve experienced what that feels like, then as far as I’m concerned any criticism you have of what Israel does to defend its people while taking extraordinary measures to preserve human life in the face of an enemy that doesn’t value human life and uses their people as human shields is fatuous and ignorant at best.

      Please, if you can, realize that signing a piece of paper with these people and giving them land amounts to a closer platform to fire at Israel’s civilians until that changes. Would you and the Scots do the same? of course not.

      Rob Miller

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